Amazing Day Trips to Take from Bora Bora by Boat

Explore Raiatea by boat
Explore Raiatea by boat | © NAPA / Alamy
Claire Dodd

Set sail to discover these mountainous islands from Bora Bora, surrounded by luminous blue lagoons and fringed by coral sand atolls of swaying palms. After all, the scattered Leeward Islands are best seen from the water. Take a day trip to secluded atolls such as Tupai, or embark on a longer trip to the ancient cultural heart of French Polynesia.

Explore these Robinson Crusoe-style destinations by booking onto an eight-day sailing holiday around French Polynesia with Culture Trip, complete with a skipper and onboard cook.

1. Maupiti

Natural Feature

Mount Teurafaatiu: a cliff overlooks the bay
© robertharding / Alamy

Tiny Maupiti is just 11 square kilometres (4 sq m); there’s only one road, hardly any cars, and zero big resorts – it’s heaven. Explore the island’s obscenely picturesque forest and beaches, or hike the pointy peak that sits at its centre. A string halo of islets surrounds the lagoon, glistening with every shade of blue imaginable; hire a kayak and go snorkelling, or book a scuba diving excursion to see what lies beneath the waves.

2. Tupai

Natural Feature

Aerial sunshine view of Tupai Heart Island
© Spotmatik / Getty Images

No, it’s not a clever Photoshop job; there really is a perfectly heart-shaped tropical atoll in French Polynesia, and its name is Tupai. It’s rumoured to be the location of treasure buried by Chilean mutineers in the 1820s. Today there are no residents, and no accommodation on the island. Instead, its palm-laden shores and shallow central lagoon draw visitors for its beauty alone. Bring a picnic, and snorkel the shallows. Visit from Bora Bora in November when sea turtles come to the beach to lay their eggs.

3. Raiatea

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

A view of a cone-roofed bungalow in the forest
© Gerold Grotelueschen / Alamy

Though desert island living is many people’s fantasy, you may want to dip into some local culture while you’re exploring French Polynesia. Mountainous Raiatea is considered the spiritual heart of ancient Polynesia. It’s from here the original settlers sailed on to Hawaii and New Zealand. Visit the Taputapuatea marae where ceremonies used to be held. It’s a three- to four-hour voyage, depending on the winds, to reach Raiatea, so expect a full day of sailing from Bora Bora. Or why not stay overnight to explore properly?

4. Motu Iriru

Natural Feature

Several palm trees on a beach as clear blue water covers the ground
© NAPA / Alamy

This pocket-sized atoll, close to the shores of Raiatea, is the perfect day trip to paradise. So perfect that at weekends, even the locals head to its shores to while away the day swimming, catching fish, and cooking dinner on the beach. Besides the palms, you’ll find showers, toilet facilities, and picnic tables, so make a day of it.

5. Motu Céran

Natural Feature

Motu Mahana: palm trees line the beach
© Douglas Peebles Photography / Alamy

First, what is a motu? These coral sand islets are dotted across French Polynesia. They form where sand accumulates over reefs, until vegetation slowly takes over, and an archetypal desert island emerges. Motu Céran is located east of Tahaa. Get there early to watch the sun rise over Huahine, kayak, or simply relax on the beach with a cold one. Cheers.

6. Taha'a

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Motu Mahana, Island, Tahaa, French Polynesia, South Pacific
© Douglas Peebles Photography / Alamy

Smell that sweet air. Directly north from Raiatea, and sharing the same lagoon, this quiet island is one for nature lovers. Home to a number of vanilla farms, their sweet scent lingers among the palms and waterfalls. The vast lagoon is perfect for swimming, snorkelling, diving, and kayaking, as it is surrounded by motu. Stay late and watch the sun set over Bora Bora.

7. Huahine

Natural Feature

Small palm-tree-lined island sits in the bay off hilly, forested Huahine
© Douglas Peebles Photography / Alamy

You’ll need a few days if you’re setting sail to Huahine, or why not add it on to a trip to neighbouring Raiatea? With lush, forested shores and a lack of large-scale development, you’ll find authentic Polynesian life across its eight quiet island villages, surrounded by vanilla, melon, and banana farms. Head to white sand beaches of Fare and Parea, and explore the neon waters of the lagoon. Alternatively, up the tempo by booking a surf lesson, or go hiking and horseback riding through the lush forests.

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